The death of Gabby Petito has gripped the nation — and shined a light once again on how abusive relationships can hide in plain sight.
Obviously we can’t say for sure that Gabby’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, a person of interest in her homicide who has evaded police for nearly two weeks now, was abusive. What we have are the facts: an eyewitness who claims to have seen Brian hitting the YouTuber, friends of the couple who describe their relationship as “toxic” and having “high highs and low lows,” and of course that infamous bodycam footage from when police stopped them after a domestic dispute call — about two weeks before her death.
While we and all the other internet sleuths can speculate about what might have been happening between the high school sweethearts, there are those with proper training in these matters who can offer greater insight.
Related: Search For Brian ‘Scaled Back’ As FBI Takes Over
Criminal profiler and psychotherapist John Kelly, who has worked on such high profile cases as the Golden State Killer, the Long Island Serial Killer, and the Green River Killer, gave his opinion of Brian — based on all the available evidence — to Fox News on Monday, and it’s truly fascinating stuff.
The main takeaway Kelly has from descriptions of Brian’s behavior from witnesses is that he fits the bill of an insecure abuser.
The original 911 caller from that fateful August 12 stop told police Brian struck Gabby, with another witness saying he wouldn’t let her in the van and nearly drove off without her.
Later, on the day of her final text to her mother, another witness told the story of how the survivalist got into a heated argument at a restaurant over the bill — specifically noting the fight was with the female employees.
Referring to both these incidents, as described by the witnesses, Kelly says of abusers:
“These guys cannot take criticism. And usually if their issues are with the female, they cannot take criticism from a female.”
Gabby reportedly returned to the restaurant after his blowup and apologized for him, something some experts believe might have set him off even further if he was as insecure as Kelly believes.
The profiled says this pattern, as well as the police bodycam footage of Laundrie, paints a convincing portrait of a domestic abuser.
Based on how his friends have described him, we learn even more. For instance, several have said he was something of a loner. But being “asocial” isn’t problematic in itself; but being “antisocial” is. Kelly explains:
“Asocial is pretty much somebody that likes to be alone… they’re not hurting anybody. Antisocial is when you strike out at society and have a lot of anger and resentment.”
The avid hiker’s Instagram bio certainly implies a little of that “anger and resentment” towards society — it reads:
“Bug bites are better than being brainwashed by the media.”
Kelly believes Brian’s switch may have flipped more to the “antisocial” during the final days of their trip.
Speaking of Instagram, the profiler went further and assessed the 23-year-old’s art. See, on his IG feed, going by the handle @bizarre_design_, Brian posted a lot of art which the professional analyzed:
“I see a projection of himself in his art, where he understands to some point that he has this monster inside of him, or he is a monster. And this monster may have come out.”
Hmm. We certainly wouldn’t want all artists to be judged by the dark subject matter of their work, but we guess given the context we understand. Here’s some examples of the work he was looking at, featuring macabre aesthetics and celebrations of Hollywood monsters:
Yeah, we’re not really seeing the dark meaning behind watercolors of Frankenstein’s monster and Hellboy. Just saying.
Turning to the kind of assessment that may help investigators track down Brian, Kelly says it’s important to look at how he changed after Gabby’s death.
The profiler believes due to the nature of the relationship, that the fugitive’s whole sense of self-worth was tied up in his late fiancée, and after her passing, “he’s got nothing.”
Does that mean he thinks Brian went to harm himself? It would have been all too easy to get himself killed in the unforgiving swamp of the Carlton Reserve where he was allegedly last headed.
No, Kelly doesn’t think so. His main evidence countering that line of thinking is that when he disappeared from his family home, he left his phone and wallet behind:
“Usually, to me, that means somebody that wants to be on the run and travel under the radar and then if he’s stopped by the cops, he can give them a fake name. He has no ID on him, they can’t readily know who he is.”
Kelly says people who plan on harming themselves will often bring their phone along so that they can be found.
Leaving behind the phone and ID also somewhat contradict the Laundrie family’s story that the last time they saw him was when he drove to the Carlton Reserve. He really left behind both his phone AND his driver’s license before taking the car??
What does Kelly ultimately think of Brian right now? It’s a pretty harsh judgment:
“I think he’s a coward on the run. Knowing that he’s a coward, where would we think he would go? Do we think he’s macho enough to go off to Mexico? I don’t know about that.”
Macho enough for Mexico?? Not exactly sure what that means; it’s another country, not a leather club. But getting across the border with no ID would definitely be tricky, that’s for sure.
What do YOU think of Kelly’s bold assessment??
[Image via FOX13/YouTube.]